Thursday, November 3, 2011

Barefoot Running: Hot Products

The following is a brief introduction of the "barefoot shoe" industry and its major players. Much to Vibram's disappointment the market for barefoot shoes is no longer a monopoly. Vibram's innovative product has produced enough clout to entice Adidas and Fila to enter the market. Next week we will be posting an article explaining the argument between barefoot v.s shod runners. Furthermore, we will explore the relevant research and leave nothing up to the imagination. Consider this a cyber appetizer.

Vibram (The Original)
Vibram is the company that pioneered the barefoot shoe industry. The theory behind there product design is simple.

"The typical human foot is an anatomical marvel of evolution with 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons and ligaments. Like the rest of the body, to keep our feet healthy, they need to be stimulated and exercised."

There product has turned barefoot running from a cult into a multimillion dollar, publicly exonerated industry. There initial marketing campaign featured a "logical" approach.

1. Feet are needed to run
2. Running barefoot makes my feet stronger
3. Barefoot running makes me a stronger runner

It makes sense right? Regardless of the science behind the marketing, Vibram's product has sold well. Vibram brought novelty to a sport that hadn't changed in 100 years. People who haven't run in years are flocking into there local running stores to begin barefoot running.

Here are Vibram's advantages:

1. 28 different models
2. Variety in pricing
3. Variety in size, style and design

adiPURE (The Big Brand Attempt)

Adidas is the most recent company to dip there hand into Vibram's market. Adidas has three major things going for them.

1. Brand Recognition
2. Great Look
3. Mark Verstegen (President, Athlete's Performance)

The partnership between Adidas and Athlete's Performance is particularly interesting. Vibram's current marketing campaigns are directed towards runners, hikers, climbers and other outdoor sports enthusiasts. Athlete's Performance is the worlds authority on Athletic Performance training. They are the big name in NFL combine, MLB and NFL off season training. The strategic partnership between these two powerhouses brings Adidas into front of the barefoot human performance training scene.

Fila Skeletoes (Yes, they're still around)

Three years ago Fila was a dead company. Fila was bought by a South Korean Hedge fund in 2007 and is under restoration. Skeletoes is Filas first major attempt to "get back in the game". Fila is definitely going to be the small player in the barefoot shoe market because it doesn't have the large brand recognition of Adidas or the history of Vibram. The main thing Fila has going for them is highly competitive pricing.

All three companies are fighting the uphill battle of convincing barefoot running hopefuls that they need shoes in order to run barefoot. This is a counter intuitive notion that consumers are buying into like wartime propaganda. That's all for now, tune in next week for the research behind barefoot running, or the lack thereof.